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Visions of Europe

Interdisciplinary Contributions to Contemporary Cultural Debates

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Edited By Gail K. Hart and Anke S. Biendarra

How do we as scholars envision Europe? Participants in a two-day research symposium bring a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary responses to this complex question. Distinguished US scholars address the European continent, its history and culture, and its politics in essays that range from the intellectual tradition to poetics and world literature, from the air war to plurilingualism, from religious symbolism to Europe’s colonial legacy. These contributions comprise a portrait or vision of Europe today; the challenges it faces, and the challenges we face in confronting it as a cultural and geopolitical entity.
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Poetry and the Public Sphere: World Literature and European Languages

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David T. Pan

Today’s project of a European union is an extension of an Enlightenment-era dream of an expanding public sphere that can eventually replace violent conflict with measured discussion. This project is based on a particular theory of knowledge that presumes that differences of language and culture are incidental to the problem of meaning and that an overarching, cosmopolitan consensus can be achieved through a gradual process of discussion. In the German tradition, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) stand as the primary architects of this conception of human unity. The basic metaphysical premise of this project is that it can establish a core of universal human principles around which a common political union could be built. Beginning with the European Union, such a union could conceivably expand outward to eventually encompass the entire world, thereby fulfilling Kant’s dream of perpetual peace. While this project has gone through many historical travails since its 18th century formulation, it remains a desideratum for academic proponents of the European Union such as Ulrich Beck, who sees cosmopolitan solutions as the necessary response to “an age of globalized risks” (17), and Jürgen Habermas, who emphasizes, in direct reference to Kant, that “the international community of states must develop into a cosmopolitan community of states and world citizens” (xi), and that “the European Union can be understood as an important stage along the route to a politically constituted world society” (2).

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